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The Scriptorium

Failure of Faith

We can all learn from this. Luke 1.18-25

Luke 1 (3)

Pray Psalm 141.3-5.
Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not incline my heart to any evil thing,
To practice wicked works
With men who work iniquity;
And do not let me eat of their delicacies.
Let the righteous strike me;
It shall be a kindness.
And let him rebuke me;
It shall be as excellent oil;
Let my head not refuse it.

Sing Psalm 141.3-5.
(Truro: Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns!)
Lord, set a guard upon my mouth; let not my heart to evil bend,
Nor let me work iniquity in company with wicked men.

Lord, let a righteous man rebuke – a kindness this shall surely be.
Like healing oil upon my head, Your sweet rebuke shall be to me.

Read Luke 1.1-25; meditate on verses 18-25.

1. How did Zacharias respond to the angel’s message?

2. What happened to him as a result?

Failing to believe the Word of God can have serious consequences. Zacharias’ response to the angel might seem reasonable enough, but not to God. God had spoken; Zacharias pointed to temporal circumstances and suggested that God could not overcome them (v. 18). How often do we do that? God calls us to seek Him for revival, renewal, and awakening in our day (cf. Jer. 33.3; 2 Chron. 7.14). We look out on the world and say to God, “That’s not gonna happen”, and so we don’t obey, we don’t pray.

No wonder we’re so dumb about so many things.

Zacharias had allowed his tongue to utter unbelief. God made sure that would not happen again, taking away his speech until what He had promised had come to pass (vv. 19, 20). His service at the incense altar was delayed, and when he emerged, he could not speak (vv. 21, 22). Such is the plight of all who doubt the truth of God. They will hear no truth and therefore they can speak no truth until they submit their minds and mouths to the Word of the Lord.

Imagine how Zacharias felt when Elizabeth announced that she had become pregnant (vv. 23-25). The mixture of joy and shame, wonder and fear, anticipation and hope must have been palpable. And think how Elizabeth must have rejoiced. She had borne her barrenness as a reproach from her people: What’s wrong with her that God won’t give her any children? And now this, this miracle which recalled the grace of God to Sarah and the covenant blessings that issued from her. What wondrous love God had shown her, and what wonders would shortly begin to unfold.

Treasures Old and New: Matthew 13.52; Psalm 119.162
We would like to feel some sympathy for Zacharias. Now that we’ve done that, let’s be honest about him for a moment. His name harkens back to the Old Testament book of Zechariah which is about that prophet encouraging the people to continue the task of rebuilding the temple that one day would be inhabited by the glory of the coming Messiah. With that as their motivation, they entered the building project with wholehearted zeal, for they knew their Messiah was coming! The Greek and Latin version of the prophet’s name is Zacharias which means Yahweh Remembers or Yahweh Has Remembered (information gleaned from preface notes to the book of Zechariah NKJV).

So, all his life he had carried this meaningful name and now he was a learned priest, but somehow still baffled by the angel’s words? Yes, yes, it must have been terrifying to be confronted by this angel, but one would’ve hoped that the majestic appearance would not have caused him to question God.

Gabriel’s response to him was so heartfelt: “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings” (Lk. 1.19). There was a combination of disappointment and anger as he added, “But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time” (Lk. 1.20). Can you also hear a mighty and very holy “DUH”?

Jesus spoke powerful words concerning the work of angels. He said, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18.10). Gabriel said that he stood in the presence of God, and Jesus said that they always see the face of God. They are very blessed and special creatures and due everyone’s belief and respect.

Now I would like to say something positive about Zacharias. He was faithful in his work. Although he had some amazing news to share with his wife, and he had been struck dumb, and was no doubt shaken up by the whole situation, he stayed the course of his work responsibility. “So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house” (Lk. 1.23). How many of us would have asked for time off, or a sick day, or a much-needed early departure?

I’m grateful for Zacharias. For his bad and good tendencies and traits. He was chosen by God to be John’s father. God trusted him to not provoke John, but to bring him up in the training and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6.4). And this he and Elizabeth did faithfully. Zacharias learned from his mistakes. And we learn an important lesson from him: When God says to us through His Word “Obey My commandments”, we must never retort, “How shall I know this?” (Lk. 1.18)

“Failing to believe the Word of God can have serious consequences.”

For reflection

1. Why might you be tempted to question the Word of God at times? How can you resist that temptation?

2. God calls us to believe His Word. What can you do to make sure you consistently respond to God in faith?

3. Whom will you encourage today to have faith in God’s Word?

Zacharias heard all that the angel said; but his unbelief spake. In striking him dumb, God dealt justly with him, because he had objected against God’s word. We may admire the patience of God towards us. God dealt kindly with him, for thus he prevented his speaking any more distrustful, unbelieving words. Thus also God confirmed his faith. If by the rebukes we are under for our sin, we are brought to give the more credit to the word of God, we have no reason to complain. Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Luke 1.5-25

Pray Psalm 141.8-10.
Pray for a clearer vision of Jesus, exalted in glory. Pray that you will know His Presence throughout this day as a shelter from temptation and trial and a place of refreshment and rest.

Sing Psalm 141.8-10.
(Truro: Shout, for the Blessed Jesus Reigns!)
We lift our eyes to You, O Lord, and refuge seek; Lord, save our soul!
From every trap and snare redeem; deliver us and make us whole.

T. M. and Susie Moore

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Except as indicated, all Scriptures are taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. For sources of all quotations, see the weekly PDF of this study. All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (Williston: Waxed Tablet Publications, 2006), available by clicking here.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in the Champlain Valley of Vermont.
Books by T. M. Moore

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